Tuesday, September 23, 2014

JONES: Back in Topeka

By KEVIN JONES, Kansas House Representative | 5/15/2013

We’re back.

After a month-long break from the Topeka whirlwind, we returned Monday for veto session. During this time, we will vote on bills that have passed out of either the Kansas House or the Senate, and are now within conference committees made up of House and Senate members, to work toward resolving any differences that both sides of the Capitol might have. When the conference committees come to agree on a particular bill, it is then brought before the Senate and the House again for a final vote. If it passes both, it goes before the governor to be signed.

We’re back.

After a month-long break from the Topeka whirlwind, we returned Monday for veto session. During this time, we will vote on bills that have passed out of either the Kansas House or the Senate, and are now within conference committees made up of House and Senate members, to work toward resolving any differences that both sides of the Capitol might have. When the conference committees come to agree on a particular bill, it is then brought before the Senate and the House again for a final vote. If it passes both, it goes before the governor to be signed.

Veto session is notorious for taking an excessive amount of time doing last-minute work to pass legislation (and sometimes force legislation). The goal this session was to get done in 80 days, having a more effective session with less spending. The trouble is that any disagreement can cause us to miss our goal.

Currently, there is a disagreement that has set the stage for this veto session. Of the tax plans put forward by the governor, by the Senate and by the House, the main sticking point is retaining the current sales tax rate of 6.3 percent that is supposed to sunset to 5.7 percent as of 2014. The governor’s original tax plan included this sales tax being retained permanently and it removed the opportunity for you to write off your mortgage interest during tax season. Both the Senate and the House passed a tax plan that still allows the mortgage interest to be written off at a decreasing rate in proportion to the increasing income tax savings, but the House wants the sales tax increase to fall off and the Senate wants to keep it on.

So far, I have not heard of a compromise. It will come. It has to come. It is a waiting game for most of us outside of the conference committee. When finally a compromise is reached, it will come to the Senate and the House and we will vote to concur or not, and then send it on to the governor or back to conference committee.

It is a little frustrating being in Topeka and just waiting for the House, Senate and governor’s office to come to agreements.

There have been activist groups for both the developmentally disabled “carve out” and for the Education Common Core Curriculum unrest present this week. As I met with, listened to, and watched these groups, I could not help but think that at this point in session there is not much that can be done on these issues until next year unless a conference committee does something dramatic. These are both issues for all of us to become more aware of and knowledgeable on.

I know the House is interested in common sense reductions in the size of government. This week demonstrated that some of the best people to identify those savings are state employees. A state employee was awarded $1,025 because of a suggestion to install motion activated paper towel dispensers that saved the state $10,025 last year. The state has an Employee Suggestion Program that rewards employees who suggest an idea that saves the state money over a documented 12-month period. The employee receives 10 percent of the savings, the agency receives 10 percent and the rest goes into the State General Fund. Making the best use of taxpayer funds is extremely important, and we are eager to find more savings and efficiencies. Any ideas for savings can be submitted to the Department of Administration.

During the session, I had the pleasure of carrying two bills — SB 136 and HB 2066 — in the house. SB 136 is the bill that will allow veterans to have “VETERAN” put on their driver’s license if desired. HB 2066 allows a patient to self-refer to a physical therapist for evaluation and treatment.

I had the pleasure to play host to three pages May 9, including  Katie Lybarger, Garnett, and Brady Rockers and Jasmine White, Greeley. I was very impressed with their work ethic and the fact that they gave up time to come help me in Topeka. I hope others will take advantage of coming to the Capitol to page next session.

It has been a pleasure to serve the 5th House District this legislative session. My “listening sessions” at several locations proved to be valuable in hearing what the people of the district were thinking on the issues. Please continue to communicate with me on the issues.

Much of the content of my future reports will rely on the concerns and questions you bring to me through your correspondence. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, represents Franklin County and the 5th District in the Kansas House. Email him at kevin.jones@house.ks.gov or call (785) 296-6287.

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